Sofiya Valshonok

Global HR & Recruitment Leader

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Between the ages of 3 and 7. I got most of my family’s attention at that time. Each of the family members contributed to my upbringing. My grandmother was reading me books out loud. I absolutely loved it. My father talked with me a lot and always had a funny joke or a rhymed poem to add to a conversation. Each time we talked we also laughed a lot. My mother took me on exciting long walks frequently, I especially liked, when we went to the Zoo. So she took me there a lot, and we always brought with us food to feed the animals. It was a lot of fun. My grandfather was also taking me on long walks, but in the evening, so I would sleep better at night. During those walks we looked at the stars and he taught me how to distinguish astronomical constellations. It was mesmerising!

2. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

Evgeniy Medresh was my favourite teacher and a principal in an amazing private gymnasium called “Ochag” where I studied until I went to university. He influenced me and my life a lot. At first when he taught a Law course. It lasted only one year and still made me interested enough to then go and get Bachelors and Masters in Law. A second course he taught was Psychology. I fell in love with it immediately, and shortly after that did a long Gestalt Therapy training. Today, years after that, I am going back to studying psychology. Almost finished a Cognitive Behavioural Psychology course.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

I learned to be more flexible, make last minute changes and be spontaneous. My inner preference would always be a proper in advance planning and sticking to the initial plan. But gradually the world changes, processes become faster, there isn’t much stability. Old rules don’t work in this rapid and uncertain reality so I adopted new rules which made me more productive. Now I am prepared for any scenario.

4. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

Jennifer Lopez big time! She is a hard worker. Creative and talented actress, singer, dancer, business owner, so versatile in what she does. All this combined with being a mother, a wife and looking stunning every day which is a result of her hard work too. She is combining different roles in life and is successful in each of them. A true role model.

5. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?

That I am a couch potato:) In reality I do sports at least 3 times a week and hike on weekends.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

Convincing people. My analytical and sales skills work as a good team here. The only condition is I have to believe in what I am talking about.

7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

To have an unscheduled phone call or physical meeting with me. I see much more impact and get a better feeling from these forms of communication. On the other hand most people today feel comfortable sending short and non detailed text messages which drain you in a long conversation requiring follow up questions even before you know it’s something you wanna take part in.

8. In current industry conversation, what is an example of ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’?

AI tools are threatening to displace humans in various occupations completely. I don’t believe it will happen anytime soon. In the end what matters is a high quality of work, personalization, human touch, sterling client/candidate experience. It will all still come from people.

9. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

A tricycle I bought for my teenage daughter. I didn’t know those existed! Only had an image of a stable bike in my head (she never managed to learn to ride a regular one). So I googled my idea, realised such a thing actually existed and then ordered one! Now both of us ride it regularly.

10. What’s your favourite meal? Can you say why?

My favourite meal is a steak prepared on natural charcoal. It’s delicious and its smell is addictive. Also to cook it you need to be outside which is adding a special experience to the meal.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

My bar would have white walls, clients would be offered to use paint, coal, markers, pencils and other materials to design it the way they want and leave their unique mark. Furniture would be reconstructable to give clients freedom of changing the bar environment. I want my bar to promote freedom of creativity and help clients express themselves.

12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising most? Why?

Rodion Raskolnikov in “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoyevsky. He committed a crime being drawn into very tough circumstances in life, convinced himself it’s the right thing to do. And then regretted what he did and turned himself in.

13. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

I never settle and don’t slow down. When hired, I come with a full power bank of energy and enthusiasm. Through all the way working in the company and even right before leaving I am giving my 200%, totally invested in success and result driven.

14. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

A few years ago one of the senior managers in J.P. Morgan taught me that effective communication and a strong network built on long term relationships are two essential components for success.

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Boastfulness. It isn’t the best quality. At the same time it is a sign of being open and willing to share, communicate, maybe get appreciation. This quality in people makes me smile.

16. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Not to compromise on personal traits of the candidate. That’s something that can’t be taught or changed after hiring.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

Corona crisis and current Global Recession showed that in house recruitment professionals are seen as disposable and unneeded when there is a hiring freeze or layoffs. Not much thought is put by companies’ leadership into leveraging skills of recruitment in other areas within the company or making preparation work for future hiring. It scares me that we will see this happening every time things become shaky on the job market. Recruitment professionals are underestimated and treated more like service providers than business partners.

18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Take risks. Don’t be afraid of challenges and hard work.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What is your dream? What are you doing to fulfil it?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

As it’s a global initiative, I suggest each time to interview someone from a different country.

Thank you to Sofiya Valshonok for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Sofiya on LinkedIn.

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